The organization is implementing several initiatives to build a better community, but its wants to emphasize four specific programs this season.
"These are ways for people to support community-building, whether monetarily or in person,” said NECIC Founder and Executive Director, Deanna West-Torrence said. “A neighborhood is better when people are building it together."
The first initiative is Open Table, a mentoring program that trains six to eight adults that form a “table” that shares a meal together weekly for one year. The conversations help participants navigate challenges of young adulthood, such as getting a job, buying a first car or renting an apartment.
NECIC Community Organizer Kay Smith leads the program. Not unlike any other family, it is during these weekly gatherings that the youth begin to build relationships -- learning a variety of life lessons from committed adults who will show up week after week. NECIC partners with Richland County Children’s Services, the local faith-based community, and community volunteers on this initiative.
The Urban Farm, the second initiative, will help get fresh, local produce to local businesses and keep the community’s dollars in the North End. A 12-acre farm leased on the former Gorman Rupp Company site is located at 311 Bowman Street.
The farm will support new urban farmers seeking to learn not only how to grow food, but how to grow a small business as well. With land, microbusiness development and microloans in place to support these and other initiatives, the farm currently houses four individual farmers that are part of the OSU Mansfield Microfarm Project.
This project is designed to increase healthy food access, create economic opportunities and keep food dollars from leaving the community.
“Excitement is building in anticipation of our first official growing season coming in the spring of 2020,” said Cheyla Bradley, NECIC Communications Coordinator.
The third initiative is small grants. North End Small Grants of up to $250 support projects proposed by three or more residents (or organizations) that are pitched at Neighbor Up Night (the second Wednesday of every month).
These grants promote public benefits such as: neighborhood pride, encourage community involvement and support volunteerism. Since 2008, nearly 300 small grants have funded various collaborative events and projects including home repair workshops for single mothers, porch parties that bring neighbors together to meet one another, voter registration and neighborhood clean ups.
The last focus area for NECIC is the African-American Leadership Initiative (AALI). AALI exists to support and celebrate past, current and future assets of our local African American community.
Realizing that many of the contributions of the African American community are often unrecognized, AALI connect those assets, develops leadership and supports residents in building a network that will ensure success.
AALI provides specialized programming including a lunch and learn speaker series, a social networking event that highlights local accomplishments of African American leaders and provides webinars for professional development training.
Some of the topics addressed in AALI include the following issues of relevance to the local community: education, mental health, health disparities, criminal justice reform and neighborhood history.
“We hope that you will be encouraged on the Richland Gives day of giving to strengthen our community by making a donation to NECIC,” Bradley said.